Sussex Academy girls, Cape boys win Sussex cross country titles

October 27, 2023

The Sussex Academy and Cape Henlopen cross country teams came away with team titles at the Sussex County Championships held Oct. 25 at the new and improved 5,000-meter course at Sandhill Fields in Georgetown.

Led by sophomore Jason Baker, the Cape boys swept the top five positions to score 15 points. The Sussex Academy girls scored 25 points and were led by individual runner-up Paige Ballinger, just an eighth-grader, who finished in 18:28 for one of the nation’s top performances for her age.

Sussex Academy placed all five scorers in the top 10, as Ballinger was backed up by Lily Bowe in third in 20:38, Makenna Blades fifth in 21:06, Katya Geyer sixth in 21:06 and Riley Moriarty 10th in 21:27. The Seahawks’ second through fifth runners were 49 seconds apart, which is how you win cross country meets. The title was the second in a row for Sussex Academy and coach Jay Diaz.  

“Sussex Academy is a small, public charter school working to build a program that gives the kids a chance to be competitive and be recognized today and beyond,” said Diaz. “A few tough young runners made the difference for us today.”

For the Vikings, Hailey Hassell led the way with a fifth-place finish in 21:01, while Ava Dolan was eighth in 21:13. Allaire Burton finished ninth in 21:20, and Zoe Miller rounded out the Cape scorers in 11th in 21:44. Arina Varrato of Sussex Tech finished third overall to lead her team in 19:38. The Vikings scored 40 points for second in the team scoring, while Rick Hundley’s Indian River team was third with 83 points.

The Cape boys packed it up following Baker, as the second through fifth runners were an impressive 25 seconds apart. Joey DeGregory looks back to healthy, finishing second overall in 16:58. Brayden Redd was third in 17:01, Max Gillen took fourth in 17:11 and Andrew Radka rounded out the Vikings’ scoring in fifth in 17:23.  

“I was pleased with the effort from our boys and girls today,” said Cape coach Matt Lindell. “Our boys’ top five was under a minute apart, which is something we have been working on all season. And our girls are continuing to drop time and close the gap with Caesar Rodney, Sussex Academy and Milford. I am excited to see what both of our squads will do 10 days from now at the Henlopen Conference meet. Both teams are firing on all cylinders at the most important portion of the season.”

The individual highlight of the day was girls’ overall champion Brynn Crandell shattering her Sandhill Fields course record of 17:58 with a time of 17:20. Crandell, the only four-time county meet winner, cruised through an opening mile in 5:25 and did two miles in 11 minutes to open a lead of just over a minute. Crandell ran 19:05 at Sandhill Fields as a freshman, 17:58 at Sandhill Fields as a sophomore champ and 19:35 at Sussex Tech as a junior champ. Crandell’s overall margin of victory in all four county championship meets is an amazing 3:12.

The Sussex Academy and Cape girls will head to the Henlopen Conference meet next weekend, where Kent County power teams CR and Milford await. The Cape boys will again battle CR, which is unbeaten this season.

Sandhill note - The Sandhill Fields 5,000-meter cross country course, with financial donations from Seashore Striders and muscle from the Sandhill Crew, went through an upgrade in the past few weeks and is looking more and more like a championship course. Twenty-five directional XC wooden posts were put in along with start and finish posts, and a beautiful 4-by-4-foot color sign shows the course layout. Markers were also placed at the 400-meter and 800-meter marks, the halfway mark, and the 400-meter and 800-meter to-go marks. When I joined the board at Sandhill Fields several years ago, I had a goal and vision of creating a championship cross country course downstate. Special thanks to General Manager Brad Leinbach, Joe Schell and head groundskeeper Rob Cuddeback, who have been open and supportive to my vision. It is not 100% complete yet, but it’s getting close.  

Lace Up for Ag Literacy 5K

Mike Wardian of Rehoboth Beach blazed through the Hopkins Farm 5K course in 17:40, while Lisa Sherman of Washington, D.C., took the female championship in 23:28. “This is my favorite course,” said Sherman. Matt Fox of Milford was second in 20:21, while Jason Baker finished third in 21:23. Liz Guida of Lewes won the female masters title in 25:51. “Thank you to everyone who participated in our third annual Lace Up for Ag Literacy 5K last weekend at Hopkins Farm Creamery in Lewes,” said Mikayla Paul, Delaware Farm Bureau marketing coordinator.

Finish chute

Congrats to the more than 100 participants who turned out for the annual Mariners Bethel 5K and 10K trail run Oct. 22. Melissa Wiley of Ocean City, Md., was first across the line in the 5K in 20:51. Everett Hall of Frankford took second place and the male title in 20:51.8. Leslie Wright of Delmar won the male masters in 24:31. Robbin Dunn of Farmington, Conn., won the female masters race in 27:31. Milford runner Pete Rosembert won the 10K in 40:03, while Paul Montini of Huntingdon Valley, Pa., won the male masters division in 41:08. Daughter Olivia Montini won the female title in 46:02, while Susan Dunn of Laurel won the female masters in 47:30.

At the Delmarva Easterseals 5K at Baywood Greens, it was the Sewell pair from Lewes, Mike and Molly, who won the overall male and masters female titles in times of 21:33 and 31:18, respectively. Duane Christy of Havre de Grace, Md., won the male masters race in 25:02, while Florina Moldovan won the overall female title in 27:32.

The Sea Witch Half Marathon and 5K are nearing a nice crowd of 500. The hardest part of the race will be finding a parking spot. Biking, walking or being dropped off are the best options. The half marathon will be at Cape Henlopen State Park, beginning at 8 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 28, while the 5K will begin in Rehoboth at 9 a.m., Sunday, Oct. 29. Packet pickup is at Irish Eyes in Lewes from 5 to 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 27.


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